Freedom ends when endangerment of others begins

When I first saw the anti-mask protesters grouped together at the entrance to Mt. Ararat High School Sept. 29, I mistook them for the “…huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”. I quickly scanned the area searching for the Statue of Liberty, but in vain. Their intended message was “school masking=loss of freedom” Our Constitution clearly protects the right of the people to peaceably assemble, although there are limits as to where and when. Are we free to make our own individual decisions regarding mask-wearing?

Whose freedom is being infringed upon by a school mask mandate? A significant percentage of students is currently unvaccinated, by choice or necessity, and COVID is present in many schools, judging by the multiple forced school closures around the state. So a student’s demand to “breathe free” comes at a potential cost: the health of his/her classmates, their contacts, their families. The local high school has appropriately required masking, along with other measures, to help prevent in-school infection transmission, directly protecting the community.

Freedom is not absolute (because of those pesky “other people”), and the Constitution, as determined by the Supreme Court, does not make that claim. In 1905, in a case challenging mandatory smallpox vaccination during an epidemic, the Court decided that “…real liberty does not mean freedom to act as one pleases regardless of the injury that may be done to others…there are manifold restraints to which every person is reasonably subject for the common good… .”

So, peaceably assemble, but own the consequences of your demands, should they be met: over 1,000 Mainers dead (and counting).

Steven Zimmerman,
Topsham

Support carbon fee and dividend

Remember that idea that you sacrifice now for your future, give up something today for a better life for your kids tomorrow? What has that got to do with atmospheric warming? A lot.

Past climate agreements aspired to that better future but failed. Why? They had no teeth, no enforcement mechanisms. Meanwhile, so many politicians were on the take from coal, oil and gas interests here in America that we missed the opportunity to provide badly needed worldwide leadership.

Deceptive advertising played us for all we were worth, first arguing that the problem wasn’t serious, and when it couldn’t be denied, that it was our fault or that there was nothing we could do about it anyway. They lied to us about “clean coal” and “clean natural gas,” and still do.

The world will continue to get warmer for all the damage we’ve done to our atmosphere. But common sense offers a solution to reducing further harm: if we want less of something, we make it cost more. We put a steadily increasing tax on fossil fuels at the mine, the wellhead and the border, because we can’t afford to risk failure yet again.

Hold on, doesn’t that mean we get hit with price increases? Of course. But under carbon fee and dividend, the money collected gets returned to all American households on an equal basis. Not to big corporations. Low- and middle-income people mostly come out ahead. We are the ones with smaller carbon footprints, and we deserve a leg up during the transition to cleaner sources of energy. The rich folks, especially the obscenely rich, will see their expensive lifestyle costs skyrocket. Not being stupid, they’ll reduce their emissions.

Investors and businesses will see that the future is in clean energy. Taxing carbon and fairly refunding the proceeds to all Americans will enable our country to lead once again. Tell King, Collins and Pingree or Golden that you support “carbon fee and dividend,” a fair and effective climate solution. Let’s aspire not to a helpless hand wringing but to that old American ethic of securing a better future.

Sam Saltonstall,
Brunswick

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